Wearing ‘Bionic Gloves’, Injured Pianist Can Play Again

New innovation gives joy to a famous pianist who was unable to play for 20 years.

Dec 6, 2020
Wearing ‘Bionic Gloves’, Injured Pianist Can Play Again | New innovation gives joy to a famous pianist who was unable to play for 20 years.

Having dexterity in one’s hands is a real gift that is often overlooked by many. Yet one man is overwhelmingly grateful to be able to use his fingers once again. Instilling gratitude and hope in many, this man’s special “reconnection” to his art also offers a glimpse into how emotional, creative, and inspiring one’s fingers can actually be.

João Carlos Gandra da Silva Martins, from São Paolo, Brazil, fell in love with the piano when he learned to play at the age of eight, according to Intelligent Living. He then went on to become a renowned classical pianist as well as a famous interpreter of Bach’s Complete Keyboard works.

His life was devoted to the piano, however, in 1965, this musician suffered a soccer injury that left him with nerve damage in one arm. He continued to play with one hand, yet 30 years later, a mugging incident in Bulgaria left him with an injured hand as well as damage to his skull and brain.

Martins could play with one hand and one thumb but suffered from a neurological condition called focal dystonia. This resulted in tremors and a lack of precise muscle control in his hands. 

Determined to heal and to play piano again, he went through 24 surgeries and tried out 100 different contraptions over the years, according to Intelligent Living. None of the procedures or gadgets worked. Yet he pursued his love of music, instead becoming a composer. Maestro Martins traveled the world as a composer with some of the best European and American orchestras.

His life then took a beautiful turn. Industrial designer Ubiratan Bizarro Costa came up with a solution for him, presenting Martins with a pair of “bionic gloves.” The black neoprene gloves have iron rods made with a 3D printer, so after a finger is lowered onto a piano key, the gloves assist it to spring back. This technology was inspired by Formula 1 racing and cost just $100 to create!

Tears streaming down his face, Maestro Martins felt true gratitude as he started to play his favorite Bach sonata. “To be able to use all ten fingers again more than 20 years later is a miracle for me at the age of 80,” Martins told Intelligent Living.

Martins gives pause to simply appreciate one’s fingers for all the work, creativity, and skills they can offer.  And now Martins’ dream has actually come true; he has been reunited with his beloved piano and with Bach, his fingers now flying across the keys.

As for Bizarro, he plans to produce and export his “bionic extender gloves.” His discovery may restore agility, dexterity, and renewed hope to many people around the world.

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Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.